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Dupanloup. - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone) 
Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, edited with and Introduction by John Neville Figgis and Renald Vere Laurence. Vol. I Correspondence with Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone and Others (London: Longmans, Gree and Co., 1917).
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Dear Lady Blennerhassett,—
I remember now that you are right and that there are cases in which the hat was refused or withheld on the ground you mentioned.
Everybody in England compares him to the late bishops of Exeter1 and Winchester. He had Exeter’s fire and zeal, and Wilberforce’s charm, gift of adaptation, artfulness, and power of influencing high and low.
It was a great merit not being a scholar, to promote classical studies, even a Greek play, in face of the opposition there was in the clergy. He cannot have known Greek, for at Rome it came out that he had never seen a Greek Testament. He knew Latin fairly, not elegantly. The Hungarians were shocked at the Latinity of his protest, and made many alterations.
Nothing proves better his real want of culture than his proposal that you should write a life of St. Paul. He cannot even have known why it would be well to write such a book, or he would have known how much minute Greek scholarship was required.
“Surtout, méfiez-vous des sources,” is the most characteristic of all his sayings.
When he came to Herrnsheim to see the Professor in September 1869, I was appalled at his ignorance. After he was gone I said to the Professor, with some emotion: “What is to be expected, if this is one of the best specimens?” Under this impression he [Döllinger] wrote his Erwägungen,1 which impressed Dupanloup very much, though, on the Roman question, he had a very strong feeling indeed against the Professor. Perhaps the expression, in 1840, was, that Affre2 was less exaggerated—which might apply to politics as much as to religion.
Don’t forget that, in 1871, he refused the Archbishopric of Paris. Rémusat’s3 words to me were stronger than I said last night. He said that the French Government appoints, and does not present for papal approbation, and that of course they were ready to appoint him; but he himself dissuaded them, on the ground that the Pope would not like it.
When he wanted Thiers to come to the Council, he said to me: “Il les charmerait tous.” They had become friends in 1848 about Falloux’ laws.4
He also wanted Broglie to come; and when I said “mais il est orléaniste,” he did not see at first what I meant, and then rather liked it.
Down to 1855 I trace a coldness between him and Montalembert, perhaps as long as Lacordaire lived. There is a Biographie du Clergé, par un solitaire, about 1840. When the life of Dupanloup appeared in it, he was spoken of as a failure.
You may be quite sure that to a man accustomed an das strenge Denken,5 to Scherer, Taine, St. Hilaire, he appears a mere windbag—otherwise pour les beaux esprits, I can fancy Sainte-Beuve or Renan (his disciple) taking delight in him.
Observe his outwardness, his belief in the influence of the press, his constant articles in newspapers during the Council, his petty polemics. All his thoughts were for influence in his own time and country.
He was a very patriotic Frenchman, knowing very little of other countries or other languages. I don’t tell you the gross mistakes I corrected for him in his book on the Sovereignty of the Pope.
“Cela déshonorera les Jésuites, mais on ne peut plus l’éviter,” he said to me about the scheme of enlarged Erwägungen.1 That shows how little his mind was clear, how little he moved on lines self-traced, towards an understood goal. But I think he was more under the influence of circumstances than of conversations—flottant plus que faible. I once expressed my astonishment at his quoting De Maistre as an authority, meaning of course that if De Maistre is any authority it is on the other side. I came away with the impression that he did not know what I meant. I did not observe that he always attributed bad motives to adversaries, but he was suspicious that people were actuated with national motives.—Ever yours faithfully—in haste—packing up,
Mentone, 17 février, 1879.2
Chère Lady Blennerhassett,—
Nous avons su par la voix de la presse unanime le véritable succès de votre travail, avant même de le voir. Nous ne l’avons même presque pas vu, puisque Madame Minghetti1 l’a immédiatement emporté, et en fait des extraits, la nuit, au lieu de dormir.
Je comprends naturellement, que la voix de l’amitié reconnaissante ne se fait pas entendre pour dire le lendemain de la mort tout ce qui appartient à l’impitoyable histoire. Le duc d’Audiffret-Pasquier2 sera, je suis persuadé, aussi scrupuleux que vous de ne pas franchir la ligne, ou plutôt l’abîme, qui sépare l’éloge funèbre du jugement lointain de l’avenir. Heureux s’il réussit autant que vous à faire reconnaître les traits personnels.
Vous m’avez souvent dit que je suis un naïf, et je m’en aperçois à la manière dont vous devez avoir parlé de l’évêque d’Orléans. Que le Professeur, en adoptant votre article reconnaisse dans un défenseur du pape, du syllabus, et du pouvoir temporel, un chrétien, plus ou moins éclairé, représentant l’église Catholique, et jouissant du bienfait de ses sacrements—reconnaisse, par conséquent, qu’au delà de cela il y a autre chose—voilà ce qui me donne bien à réfléchir, et m’ouvre des horizons imprévus. Newman a très bien dit que la plupart des controverses provient de ce que les gens ne se donnent pas la peine de définir exactement leurs points de vue.—Croyez moi, votre très dévoué,
Dear Lady Blennerhassett,—
After writing in half a dozen Reviews and having published many letters and lectures, monotonous, as they appeared to me, by perpetual iteration of the very few ideas for which I care and upon which I trade, I never apprehended that I could still be obscure. When misrepresented, I have generally supposed that such misconstruction was nothing but the usual veil of disagreement. You show me that I was mistaken and overvalued my own perspicuity or the perspicacity of others; and certainly if not clear to you whom I have so emphatically bored, I must have puzzled many. A wide vista opens, showing a somewhat altered world.
Let me try as briefly as possible and without argument to tell you what is in fact a very simple, obvious, and not interesting story. It is the story of a man who started in life believing himself a sincere Catholic and a sincere Liberal; who therefore renounced everything in Catholicism which was not compatible with Liberty, and everything in Politics which was not compatible with Catholicity. As an English Liberal, I judged that of the two parties—of the two doctrines—which have governed England for 200 years, that one was most fitted to the divine purpose which upheld civil and religious liberty. Therefore I was among those who think less of what is than of what ought to be, who sacrifice the real to the ideal, interest to duty, authority to morality.
To speak quite plainly, as this is a confession, not an apology, I carried farther than others the Doctrinaire belief in mere Liberalism, identifying it altogether with morality, and holding the ethical standard and purpose to be supreme and sovereign.
I carried this principle into the study of history when I had the means of getting beyond the common limit of printed books.
There I presently found that there had been a grievous evil in the Church consisting of a practice sanctioned by the theory that much wrong may be done for the sake of saving souls. Men became what we should otherwise call demons, in so good a cause. And this tendency overspread Christendom from the twelfth century, and was associated with the papacy, which sanctioned, encouraged, and employed it. Associated, not exactly identified, for I do not find that the Gallicans were better than the Ultramontanes. But they had not quite the same retrospective interest or moral solidarity. The Ultramontane, desiring to defend the papacy, had to condone and justify its acts and laws. He was worse than the accomplices of the Old Man of the Mountain, for they picked off individual victims. But the papacy contrived murder and massacre on the largest and also on the most cruel and inhuman scale. They were not only wholesale assassins, but they made the principle of assassination a law of the Christian Church and a condition of salvation.
Was it better to renounce the papacy out of horror for its acts, or to condone the acts out of reverence for the papacy? The Papal party preferred the latter alternative. It appeared to me that such men are infamous in the last degree. I did not accuse them of error, as I might impute it to Grotius or Channing, but of crime. I thought that a person who imitated them for political or other motives worthy of death. But those whose motive was religious seemed to me worse than the others, because that which is in others the last resource of conversion is with them the source of guilt. The spring of repentance is broken, the conscience is not only weakened but warped. Their prayers and sacrifices appeared to me the most awful sacrilege.
The idea of putting on the same level an Ultramontane priest and a priest of licentious life was to me not only monstrous but unintelligible. I understood the movement for the glorification of the papacy as a scheme for the promotion of sin. Arbues1 and Liguori2 seemed to me the normal and appropriate associates of the Syllabus and the Council; and I was uneasy and perplexed when I saw that the honours paid to them were regarded as special, additional facts with a significance of their own.
I heralded the Council by pointing out that the Popes had, after long endeavours, nearly succeeded in getting all the Calvinists murdered.1 It meant: give them any authority or credit that may be their due, but let it be always subject to that limit and condition. Let everything be conceded to them that is compatible with their avowed character and traditions; but see that you do nothing that could shelter them from the scorn and execration of mankind.
It is well that an enthusiast for monarchy be forced to bear in mind the story of Nero and Ivan, of Louis XIV and Napoleon; that an enthusiast for democracy be reminded of St. Just and Mazzini. It is more essential that an enthusiast of the papacy be made to contemplate its crimes, because its influence is nearer the Conscience; and the spiritual danger of perverted morals is greater than the evil of perverted politics. It is an agency constantly active, pervading life, penetrating the soul by many channels, in almost every sermon and in almost every prayer book. It is the fiend skulking behind the Crucifix. The corruption which comes from revolutionary or absolutist sympathies is far less subtle and expansive. It reaches the lower regions of the mind and does not poison that which is noblest.
That is my entire Capital. It is no reminiscence of Gallicanism. I do not prefer the Sorbonne to the Congregations or the Councils to the Popes. It is no reminiscence of Liberal Catholicism. Rosmini2 and Lacordaire, Hefele3 and Falloux seem to me no better than De Maistre,4 Veuillot, or Perrone. It is nothing but the mere adjustment of religious history to the ethics of Whiggism.
It seems to me that this is very plain sailing, that each step of the process is easy and natural, that those who think it utterly wrong must admit the unity and consistency and simplicity of the exposition; that they may think it a reductio ad absurdum of Liberalism more easily than an obscure, a difficult, an unintelligible argument. That is why, hitherto, I have had much difficulty in believing that my doctrine required comment or explanation. I have not felt that it required defence, because I have never really perceived that it was attacked. My impression has rather been that people thought it inconvenient and likely to lead to trouble, and, of course, solitary and new.
[1 ] Dr. Henry Philpotts.
[1 ]Erwägungen für die Bischöfe des Conciliums über die Frage der päpstlichen Unfehlbarkeit, October 1869. J. von Döllinger, published in his Briefe und Erklärungen über die Vaticanischen Decrete.
[2 ]Affre, Denis Auguste (1793-1848), was Archbishop of Paris from 1840. He wrote a book on the origin and decadence of the temporal supremacy of the Popes. He was shot in attempting to pacify the insurgents in 1848.
[3 ]Rémusat, Charles Comte de (1797). He wrote against Lamennais, and contributed to the famous periodical Le Globe. He supported the Government of Louis Philippe and was exiled at the coup d’État of Louis Napoleon.
[4 ] The famous Falloux Laws, passed in 1850, by which freedom was secured to the Roman Catholic teaching of religion. This has been withdrawn since.
[5 ] To rigorous thinking.
[1 ]Neue Erwägungen über die Frage der päpstlichen Unfehlbarkeit, aus den anerkannten historischen Werken Döllingers urkundlich zusammen gestellt, 1870.
Presumably this is the “enlarged” Erwägungen referred to.
[2 ] This letter is of capital importance. It indicates the great divergence which Acton for the first time discerned between himself and Döllinger. Félix Dupanloup, the great Bishop of Orléans, died in October 1878. He was an Inopportunist, although not strictly speaking an anti-infallibilist. He had defended the Syllabus of Pio Nono. In a previous letter Acton indicates considerable contempt for him. In the Nineteenth Century for February 1879, Lady Blennerhassett published a laudatory article on Dupanloup. Acton, as this letter shows, was much disturbed by this article. It seemed to him that such eulogy bordered on the insincere. What, however, disturbed him still more was this. The venerated “Professor” had actually blessed the article with an introductory letter which is printed in the Nineteenth Century. In consequence of this there were many discussions between Acton and Döllinger. Döllinger, although he was excommunicated, because he would not accept the Vatican Decrees, was yet more lenient than Acton in regard to the toleration of persectuion. Neither of them approved persecution. Döllinger was unwilling to go so far as Acton in asserting the final damnation of all persecutors, and all favourers of persecution. This is the cause of the bitterness of the concluding paragraph of this letter. The next letter expounds Acton’s principles.
[1 ]Minghetti, Marco (1863-4). The Italian Premier was a personal friend and distant connection of Acton. Many letters from Minghetti to Acton exist.
[2 ]The duc d’Audiffret-Pasquier. A great French politician and military authority, was elected to the Académie Française in the place of Mgr. Dupanloup. In accordance with etiquette, his opening speech, delivered on February 19, 1880, was an elaborate eulogium of his predecessor. Acton’s ironical compliments are written in anticipation of this and are justified. The oration is to be found in the Recueil des Discours, vol. for 1880-89, part v. pp. 65-97.
[1 ]Arbues, S. Peter of (1441-85). He was appointed by Torquemada to be Inquisitor provincial in Aragon. He was assassinated in 1485. Pius IX canonized him in 1867.
[2 ]Liguori, Saint Alphonsus de (1696-1787), founder of the Redemptorists Order and Archbishop of Palermo. He is well known for his work on the glories of Mary, and for his treatise on moral theology.
[1 ] This refers to the article on the “Massacre of St. Bartholomew,” which was published in the North British Review in 1869. It is reprinted in the volume on the History of Freedom.
[2 ]Rosmini, Antonio (1797-1855), founder of the Order of Charity. He was accused of dangerous Liberalism, although he was an Ultramontane. Cf. Letters to Mary Drew, 171, 184.
[3 ]Hefele, Karl Joseph von, Bishop of Rottenburg (1809-93), author of the History of the Councils. Hefele was a strong opponent of Infallibilism, and left Rome with the minority in July 1870. Ultimately he submitted, in 1871, to promulgate the Vatican Decrees in his diocese.
[4 ]Maistre, Joseph de (1753-1821), may be described as the founder of modern Ultramontanism. His most important works are Du Pape and De l’église Gallicane. His standpoint alike in regard to politics and religion made him a powerful supporter of the Absolutist reaction after the French Revolution.